Published on January 25th, 2013 | by Danger0
Being There – Breaking Away
Summary: There’s no other way to put it. This album is trite. Its brevity is a helpful attribute and there are several ooey gooey melodies that will stick in one’s head after a listen but the overall sound and approach feels undercooked. Being There needs a couple of years. Let’s meet back here when they turn 25.
“I’ll make you a mix!”
Being There are a rock and roll band from London, UK who presumably enjoy the films of Hal Ashby . They used to be from Manchester, UK where they formed. The NME likes them quite a bit (but we won’t hold that against anyone).
When you listen to “The Radio” from Being There’s debut album Breaking Away, you’ll probably have a pretty quick reaction. “Yep. I get it. Lo-fi dream pop. It’s the swoony, synthy guitar pop song that played over the end of every less than glossy teen romance in 1989.” At least, that was my reaction when I listened to the single.
Here’s the surprising thing about Breaking Away:
The whole album doesn’t sound like that. At least not with any specificity. Breaking Away feels like someone’s older sibling made the principal band members a good mix CD of dream pop and indie rock bands. Like a REALLY good mix. The kind that may have been gifted in 2009 and listened to for months and months until the band formed in 2010. Imagine if you will, that the principal songwriter had been talking with his cool older sister (The kind of cool lady in her early 30s who has glasses, a kind of severe bob haircut and a Ferdinand the Bull tattoo) and asked “Hey, have you ever heard Cocteau Twins?”
“Have I ever!” the sister responded enthusiastically. “I’ll make you a mix!” And then she did, but she was an endlessly cool older sister (who I now have a crush on) so it wasn’t just a mix of the better known Dream Pop bands. She got into it. Like REALLY into it. She crawled in the back of her bedroom closet and put on the button festooned denim jacket she got from her first much older boyfriend who she met at the record store and she started thinking about K Records 7” releases and fucking nostalgia. Building the mix was a whole week long affair (afforded by the boredom of her grown up job) as she decked it the fuck out with Dream Pop, early My Bloody Valentine, C86, The Vaselines, Dinosaur Jr, and all of the important Indie highlights from the late 80s and early 90s. Like I said, it was a really good mix. Someone from Being There appreciated that mix and started learning and digesting all of the important signifiers of the era of JAMC, zines, Sarah Records, Gerard Cosley, and a time when a “Twee as Fuck” button might get your ass kicked but could also get you laid. They digested and started writing. At some point Breaking Away came out.
The preceding two paragraphs were entirely products of my addled imagination, but they illustrate an important point. This album feels very much like a very young band influenced by a shuffle of songs as old as the members. The songs roll by and each is incredibly transparent about its influences. As the VERY Twee songs like “Allen Ginsberg,” the title track, and “Infinity” transition into the fuzzier noises of “The Radio,” “Silent Runners,” and “Up,” the melodies become stronger but still very obvious about their debts. Unlike other very young indie rock revival bands like Yuck or Wild Nothing, there is not enough of a signature band sound for Being There to stake as its own. Instead of liking the band for the same reason that I love bands from 1990, listening to the album becomes more a game of “Oh I remember things that sound like this.”
The lyrics don’t always help that sense of somewhat shallow nostalgia baiting. On the one hand, they are very much within the proper realm of Twee lyrical content. On the other, I’m mostly not convinced by the portrayals of looking back on the heavenly/dissatisfied feelings of being 17. Whether it’s a flat out terrible line like, “You talk to the owls/You talk to the sky/You hate your step dad/and so do I,” or the slightly less clunkery, “You thought you could start it over/but can’t because you’re getting older,” many of the lyrics directly depict a feeling that is better left evoked. There are lots of great pop songs to be made about first limerence and the simplicity of only being a little bit dissatisfied because you were stupid and thought life was simple. Front man Sammy Lewis’s lyrics are often too on the nose to be within that group.
It’s not all problematic. There are a handful of songs that stick like candy in a jacket pocket. “Allen Ginsberg” does the “too young for nostalgia but Imma feel it anyway” tone just right and the sighed refrain of “I tried but I couldn’t admit/our lives could be so much better than this,” in “Silent Runners” pairs well with a song that veers into noisy shoegaze and back in a very satisfying manner. The Teenage Fanclub nodding “Up” is just good dirty fun. 3 minutes of grimed up power pop and a skinny boy singer always works. That’s a rule.
Breaking Away is available right now on iTunes. The physical version will be released on January 29 via Young & Lost Club